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energy efficiency

Michaels Energy and The Boom Years of Energy Efficiency

By Energy Rant No Comments
This week, we are continuing with 40 years of Michaels Energy and energy efficiency history, focusing on the years of growth. As alluded to in the last post, The Great Depression of energy efficiency hit in 1999, or to be a bit more precise, 1998. Data from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s most recent state efficiency scorecard confirm my case. While The Great Depression of energy efficiency raged, utilities got caught up in the dot.com stock market bubble. They bought telecom companies, home security, resort properties, and power generation overseas. Those ventures ended poorly, taking some to the…
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Michaels Energy – The Early Years Through Deregulation

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1984 This year is our company's 40th anniversary. Michaels Engineering launched on Friday, March 23, 1984. What else was going on in 1984? Apple launched the Macintosh, the first computer on sale with a mouse and a graphical user interface; sale price: $2500, which has the purchasing power of $7,700 today. I'm surprised Steve Jobs allowed that ugly disk drive slot in the front of the machine. C'mon, Steve. Jobs produced the greatest television ad of all time to promote Macintosh in a one-minute Super Bowl ad. "You'll see why 1984 won't be like 1984." Soviet bloc nations boycotted the…
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Electricity Shortages and What to Do About It

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Some folks pin excessive weight on the federal government’s influence over our efficiency and load management industries. Even though billions/trillions of dollars are allocated through the “Inflation Reduction Act” and “Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” those funds are fleeting. What’s more enduring? Rising electricity prices and load-balancing authorities are pushing for more baseload generation and transmission-line construction – things that are always met with stiff resistance by state and local governments and stakeholder groups. Utility Dive recently reported that electricity prices outpaced the broader U.S. consumer price index. Well, gee, why would this happen? Have fuel prices increased? No. You’d think electricity prices…
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Four Steps to Energy Code Flatline

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Energy efficiency program administrators can be quite conservative regarding change and innovation. I love hearing, “Bring us new ideas that have been successful in three or four other programs.” There you are! The pinch is on. Energy efficiency codes and standards have raised the bar consistently such that incremental savings from one code change to the next are exceedingly scarce. The gravy-train days of incremental widget-efficiency improvements, including lighting efficacy and heating and cooling equipment efficiencies, are quickly closing. Vehicles A nice parallel to diminishing returns on efficiency is vehicle mileage. The following chart shows fuel energy consumed per thousand…
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Electric Ratemaking Basics and Load Flex

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In the last two Rant posts, we explored dated benefit-cost tests for energy efficiency and demand response programs and introduced flaws with dated ratemaking schemes. Both constructs are based on a century-old “cost of service” business model for monopolistic utilities. In a nutshell, the cost of service includes the debt and equity financing of generation, transmission, distribution, and operations and maintenance, which includes employees, fuel, storm damage repair, and arboriculture. Add up all those costs, including competitive investor returns on equity and debt, and then smear those costs as equitably as possible across the customer base. The sum of those…
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Demand Response Primer

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Last week I described how net zero sounds grand, it’s easy to do, but it doesn’t work to support the transition to a clean-energy grid. The reason is that everyone, whether utilities or customers, overproduces simultaneously, and then later, customers all need energy from thermal power plants simultaneously. We have an exploding deficit of customers to take that overproduction and shift load or store it for use when intermittent renewable supplies shut down. In Renewables at Scale, I described how renewable supply and batteries would never be sufficient. The gaps in intermittent renewable supply are too big for batteries to…
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Cure Net Zero with Demand Response

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I lambasted net zero many times, one time calling it an unserious weapon against climate change. Why is that? We’re going to see in this post. What is net zero? Simply, it is a building or property that produces as much renewable energy on-site as it consumes, typically over a year. Some utilities claim their net zero trophies for producing as much renewable energy as their customers buy. Why is Net Zero a Con? To answer this question in one word; exports. When a property or utility generates more electricity than it consumes, it must be exported to someone else.…
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Utility Relationships and Hookup Puns

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I attended Peak Load Management Alliance’s 45th Conference in Baltimore last week, where I captured a quote that went something like this: the difference between energy efficiency and demand response is that demand response is a relationship between utility and customer. In contrast, efficiency is a transaction or two followed by the customer and utility parting ways. I thought, hmm, so it’s like renting an apartment versus a hotel for a night or two – or a long-term relationship where two people actually know each other’s names versus a hookup. Ok. Hookups Most of us reading this cannot relate to…
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Save the Ships

Save the Ships for the Energy Transition

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I’m not a casino gambler because I know who wins. I learned long ago that a stock is worth what the next guy will pay for it – nothing more and nothing less. Bad news is good news, and good news is bad. It’s entirely unpredictable. For example: Bureau of Labor Statistics: “Two hundred thousand jobs were added last month, well short of the 500,000 expected increase.” CNBC: “That was a horrible jobs report today!” Stock Market: “Hurray! The Fed won’t raise interest rates,” and the market climbs two percentage points. Commodities have more intrinsic value than securities, and therefore,…
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Wild Energy Ride

Next Up: A Wild Energy Ride

By Energy Rant One Comment
It has been a frothy year for the energy industry, and it will continue well into next year and beyond. How far? Heh heh. Let’s start with coal. After plummeting 30% in 2020, consumption bounced back, gaining 35% in 2021. Doing the math, that doesn’t quite get coal back to 2019 consumption. Coal plants are still closing at a breakneck pace, so consumption in the United States is bound to decline in the long haul, but will load balancers and utilities be able to keep the lights on in 2030? This is a concern to me because no source of…
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